Teaching children boundaries is an important task. How can we raise a child with healthy boundaries? What is the best way to allow our children to be autonomous while setting clear boundaries in the process?
Analyzing children’s drawings enables us to assess their personality and determine whether normative behavioral limits are clear to them: Do they understand what’s allowed and what’s not? Should the parent take a different approach in educating them and setting boundaries in particular?
Educating for Boundaries
Educating for boundaries is a parental art. On one hand, it’s important to raise your child according to societal norms. On the other hand, you should carefully attend to his inner world and needs, so that he will not be carried away after every temporary social trend or vogue and be true to his core values.
Setting boundaries represents one of the biggest tests of parenthood. Usually, drawing the line is accompanied by frustration, crying outbursts, and even temper tantrums. It is not easy to stand in front of your child and forbid him from doing something.
The child’s frustration arouses a sense of guilt in many parents. Some of them would rather flex their boundaries and bend their rules to please their child. But does he really become pleased? Do you think he will not stumble across the same boundary outside of home? He probably will. Do you think that his social environment will also tolerate his tantrums? Probably not.
How to set clear boundaries
At home, and with your help, your child can benefit from countless opportunities to restrain her anger, manage it, overcome her frustration and then come up with a solution that suits her needs, personality and social environment. Age-appropriate frustration will help your child find the right solution within her and discover the creative powers she is gifted with.
We recommend treating the child as a curious being who learns by trial and error. At the same time, it is important to lay down rules and set boundaries for behaviors that cannot be considered “trial and error”. For example, when a child is in danger – runs into the street, touches electric wires, etc. – or threatens to injure another child by picking up a rock during a fight, or when his behavior is simply unacceptable – cursing, beating, or spitting.
In all of these cases, the boundary should be set in clear and emphatic words – “You must not behave like that!” – followed by taking the child away from the scene. If necessary, you can later explain to your child, as appropriate for his age, the reason for the prohibition.
Teaching children boundaries has to do primarily with the parent’s ability to maintain the boundary. The parents of the 6 year-old girl, who made this drawing, reported: “She beats us and kicks us whenever she hears the word ‘no’.
She allows herself speak to us offensively especially near our friends”. Although the parents report that their child “allows herself”, is this really the case, or maybe it is her parents who allow this behavior to continue?
Diagnosing her drawings pinpointed her difficulty to set her own boundaries. Just as in real life, in the drawings she adds incomplete elements, whose relevance to the rest of the drawing is far from clear.
Her drawings are relatively immature and this is perhaps the dearest price she pays for her behavior. Regression in drawings is typical of children in distress like her, who tries to express herself and belong, but not in the right way.
Clear and sharp boundaries are essential to a child’s development. They are also critical for him to become an independent person, able to contain anger and cope with problems. Clear boundaries are also the key to good social skills and high self-esteem.
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